Published June 20th 2017 by Headline (first published June 7th 2016)
Full title: Mad Girl: A Happy Life with a Mixed Up Mind
Author: Bryony Gordon
Genre: Non-fiction, mental health
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“I need to be honest with you from the start – because, as you will see, this is an honest book.”
It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.
A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.
Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.
I bought this book despite not knowing who the author was. All I knew is that I wanted to read more books that discussed and spoke openly about mental health, and this one seemed to fit the bill. So I got it, and it sat on my shelf ready to wait its turn.
Then I heard that Prince Harry had spoken out about his own mental health on a podcast with somebody called…Bryony Gordon. I finally recognised the name from the book and this made me move ever closer to opening its pages.
At the time I began reading, I was in the throes of a research essay all about mindfulness and mental health. So I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to see what Bryony had to say. All I can say is this: the prolouge changed my perception of mental health for the better, and resulted in me having a breakthrough with my research essay. Of course, other things factored in, but it was thanks to this book that I had my lightbulb moment.
It was her mention of the statistic that 1 in 4 of us with suffer with a mental health problem at some point. Which, she concludes, must mean that 4 in 4 of us know someone who suffers with their mental health. That’s everyone. So that would suggest the need for an open conversation about it, which is what Bryony, and the royal family are trying to acheive. They are trying to change the conversation.
Bryony makes it clear from the start that this isn’t a mental health guide or advice book. This is a book speaking about her own personal experiences and how she dealt with them. It tracks her mental health from childhood through to the present day.
After having read it, it’s incredible that Bryony kept it all to herself for so long, when all of the mental health issues she faces were such a huge part of her life and who she is today. It makes me ask the question: who else is hiding their problems, or not speakking about how they feel?
Mental health can be a lonely place due to the stigma surrounding it, but it is becoming increasingly ‘popular’ in the media, and more people are talking about it. Just today, The Guardian has published an article written by Matt Haig on how mental healthcare needs rethinking.
Bryony is also author of the book The Wrong Knickers: A Decade of Chaos which I haven’t read but is referenced in this one, and possibly tells similar stories at various points.
Overall I found this book eye-opening and funny in equal measures. If you have mental health problems or not, it’s worth a read just to get an insight into how issues such as OCD, eating disorders and depression can have an incredible impact on someone’s life. You will laugh, and smile, and maybe even almost cry when reading this gem of a book.
Link to the book on Goodreads: Mad Girl